Host: Greg Koukl
Greg talks about his mother, what the definition of faith is, and if a Christian should attend their family member’s same-sex wedding.
- Remembering Greg’s Mom (00:00)
- What’s the definition of faith? (00:18)
- Should I attend my stepdaughter’s same-sex wedding? (00:45)
Mentioned on the Show
- #STRask Podcast with Greg Koukl and Melinda Penner
- Getting Faith Right by Tim Barnett
- No Other Name Part 1, Part 2 by Greg Koukl
- Acts 10
- The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
Greg: Hello, my friends. So glad to have you on board today for our show. Stand to Reason is the name of the show. I’m your host Greg Koukl, with you every week for at least 2 hours of clear-thinking Christianity. There’s another half-hour, actually, of another podcast called #STRask. We run it a little differently. We don’t take live calls. You send your questions into #STRask. Then we use that, and The Enforcer and I do that show together. That’s a bit different. It’s been a lot of fun, though. How long we been doing STRask now? It’s 4 months now. Really? Wow! Okay. Different ways that we try to make interaction available for you.
This show, of course, call in, for the most part. I talk but I also take your calls. The number is 855-243-9975. The live show is on Tuesday nights from 4 until 6, Los Angeles time. That’s when you can call and chat with me. I look forward to getting to some callers already on board here. I did want to talk about something somewhat personal here. I think it’s appropriate. It may interest you, too. That is personal in the sense that my mom passed away about a month ago now, I guess the 6th of December. I’ve had a lot of chance to think about her and the circumstances. I lost my dad about 11 years before that. He went first.
Melinda said that when you lose your first parent, it’s like a comma. When you lose your second parent, it’s like a period. There’s a certain finality to that kind of thing. My own reflections, though, have been a bit different. I will say quite surprisingly to me, I have thought about my mom more in the last month than I have collectively in the years before that, though I called her at a fairly regular basis. The cabin that many of you know, the summer place that I and my girls and my wife go up to in the summer to do some fishing in Northern Wisconsin, this was my mom’s. She inherited it from her dad. Now it passes to me, as it turns out. I take care of it for the rest of the family, but that was her place. I talked to her about that.
It’s just been something about the finality of death caused me to be more pensive about her life. She was 86 when she died. She was born in 1929, which is the year the stock market crashed, which means that in her case, everything that she remembered about her childhood was up against the backdrop of the Great Depression.
Now, her father was my grandfather, Arthur Converse, who, by the way, had a great-great uncle – I think I got the number of “greats” there right – right around the time of the Civil War. Maybe it needs another “great.” My grandfather was born right at the turn of the century. Anyway, his great-great or great-great-great uncle was Charles Converse, who, as it turned out, wrote the music to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” I didn’t know that until I’d become a Christian and then my mom told me. Then, I did some research and learned that was true, but that was interesting to find out.
My grandfather was a lumberjack in Northern Wisconsin as a young man in the early 20th century, and because he wanted – he lived most of his life in Chicago – he wanted to retire in Wisconsin. He bought that property in 1960 and built a small place we called the cabin. My concerns are, whenever I mention that word, it conjures up images that are nothing like our cabin. It’s a very humble place, let’s put it that way, but in any event, that’s how that property came to be. I’ve been going up there ever since I was a kid, spending a portion of the summer – a few times, even the whole summer – up there, adventuring with my own brothers and other siblings, but I don’t actually know what my grandpa did for a living.
When my mom was born, I know later he became an agent for the Prudential Insurance Company. That’s how he retired, but I do know that they lived in the projects in Chicago. That means they were poor. My mom, when she was probably about 17, met my dad at a roller skating… She was an only child. She met my dad at a roller skating rink at Riverview.
Now, Riverview is not a word that will mean anything to most of you but I’ll just let you know that Riverview was the pretty much number one theme park of the time and had incredible roller coasters. It’s not there anymore. They tore it down in 1969, I think, but we used to go as kids. It was really something. It was the Disneyland of the day, although Disneyland I guess started in the early 50s, but that was Southern California, not in Chicago.
Anyway, they had a roller rink there and sometime mid-forties, my mom and dad met there at that roller rink. By 18, they were married. When my mom was 19, she had my sister, too. When she was 20, she had me, 1950. She had Mark when she was 23. She had David when she had just turned 25. At the time and the first 5 years of our lives, we lived in a farm, central Wisconsin, Antigo area. Potato farming country. My dad wasn’t a potato farmer. All his buddies were. He had some dairy cows, but he worked at a fertilizer factory in town. That’s how he made a living. It wasn’t much, this old clapboard house that had a windmill running the pump. We had an outhouse, 2 story farm house, which on Good Friday of 1954 burned right to the ground. We just barely got out by the skin of our teeth and went to the neighbors, the Harley farm I think they were. They took us in and we watched the house go all the way down. We stayed in the garage for a couple more months, then my dad filed bankruptcy.
We moved to Chicago. That’s when mom and dad had number 5, my sister Bonnie, and mom was 27. She got 5 kids. She’s 27, right? She’s finished and I mean it. She was done with having kids. We were not an easy brood to raise. I have one vivid memory. I have many memories from early on in Chicago, those first few years when I was in First and Second and Third Grade, but the thing that stands out is my mom, sitting in the kitchen, pulling at her hair and screaming because we were driving her crazy. It was a rough brood, like I said.
Of course, we all felt bad for her. We said, “Oh, mom, please don’t. I’m sorry. We’re sorry.” It was hard. Now, this reflection here is not really meant to be a eulogy of mom as much to emphasize a reality of life that we’re all aware of but we forget about, I think, most of the time, until some event drives it into our immediate awareness. That is the irretrievable loss of the present into the past. Every time somebody dies that’s close to you, you lose them. You don’t just lose them, you lose everything that they can contribute in terms of memories and background and history and the like.
I’ve mentioned to you in the past how my now 11 year old Annabeth – she was about 8 or 9 – was moping about, despondent. I’d asked her, “Why are you sad, honey?” She just said quite frankly, “I am mourning the loss of my childhood.” That is, she was, even at that age, aware that time passes. You move from one stage to another. The stage you leave gets lost in the past forever, never to be retrieved. Right after mom died, we were looking for videos that I’d taken that were on my computer. There were some clips that I’d taken of my girls when they were much younger. There they were. No teeth. Little bitty things, toddling around, barely speaking English. They were cute. You know how it is. You see these things.
There was one set of videos, we were at some farm and they were petting animals, whatever. I was frustrated with the video because I was taking a video of what they were doing and what I really wanted to do at that point was to see them. I wanted to see their faces. I wanted to remember the way they were just a few years ago. Those days are gone. Now, they’re still young, 11 and 8. I’m taking more videos now to capture what they look like now because 5 years from now, I’m going to be thinking back on this time and thinking, “Gee. I wish I had those moments back again.” No, we lose those moments and they’re gone.
This was really the point of an observation another friend of mine made. What she said is when your parents are gone, you are now the last generation. Gee, that’s really true. I was thinking about my mom in the projects. Wonder what that was like. She used to talk about it a little bit but not a whole lot. If I had any questions about what it was like to live in the projects in Chicago in the 30s, I can’t ask my mom anymore because she’s gone. In fact, all the personal memories of that time are gone in terms of my personal access. If I want to know anything about my mom’s past or my dad’s past or any of my ancestor’s pasts or of my past – what was I like when I was a little tyke on the farm, those early years? There’s no one to tell me. My mom is gone. My dad is gone. My grandparents are gone. My aunts and uncles are gone. They’re all gone. The grass withers and the flower fades.
I guess is it’s a bit sobering thinking about that. We all think different things when we lose someone close to us. Of course, we’re aware of the loss but sometimes, there are these other thoughts, too. The loss of the person, but it’s not just the loss of the person. Other things are lost as well. The past is lost, for all intents and purposes, unless you’ve captured it in some way through that person’s writing or recollections that you’ve recorded or videos of them that you’ve taken, but whatever you haven’t done is not going to get done once they’re gone. I guess I was thinking even in my own times, numbering my own days and making my own days mean more or work more or be more meaningful or productive.
I told my girls, “One day, I’ll be gone and whatever you have left of me will be what you remember of me now. I want those remembrances to be good ones.” We all have bad remembrances of our childhood because none of us had perfect parents. I am far from that myself but what I think about what will they reflect on, I don’t want them to think about an angry or graceless or crabby dad, or a person who lived inconsistently with his profession, claimed to be a Christian but, “Gee, there were lots of stuff in his life that were nothing like being a real Christian, a follower of Christ.” I don’t want them to think that. I want them to have positive images of me when they think back.
You know, I’m an old dad. I’m 65. I got an 8 and an 11, okay? Much of their adult life, I’m not going to witness. I’m going to be gone before they get very far into adulthood, probably. That will give them a lot of time to be thinking back. I just want to make those remembrances good ones. I don’t necessarily mean like, “Oh, yeah. Dad took us to Disneyland.” No, I want them to think about the good things I gave them that meant something. A heritage I passed on, a virtue I worked to instill in them, a way that I was that they have fond memories of. I want them, as one person put it, to remember me laughing not yelling. How do you do that? You just laugh more. You laugh more. You give them good things to remember. I want them, more than anything else, to remember that spiritual substance that I spent time investing in their lives that I intentionally passed on to them. That’s the kind of thing that matters most.
Anyway, so mom, we miss you and thank you for what you gave us. May I give well to my own children.
All right. Time for your calls and comments coming up here. I’m Greg Koukl. This is Stand to Reason.
Greg: Finally, folks. Time for your calls here at Stand to Reason. Let’s see. We got Michael in Olympia, Washington. Hello, Mike.
Mike: Hey, Greg. Am I on?
Greg: Yes, you are. Welcome to the show, Mike.
Mike: Thanks for having me.
Greg: You’re welcome.
Mike: I had a question about definition of faith, not necessarily… I don’t know. I just want your thoughts on it because… I’ll just fill you in a little bit on the background. I’m a student at a Catholic university up here in Washington. Basically, they have 4 core themes, which are faith, reason, service and community, which they try to build their academics around. I don’t really have a problem with that.
This year, what they want to do every year is reassess each one, get people’s input, which I think is good for each of those themes. This year, we’re discussing faith. I got involved in a faculty talk. I’m in a position to put this forward a little bit more or to have my opinion heard a little bit more.
Greg: Sure, yeah. Great.
Mike: I went and they had the presentation. Then, the definition that they came up with or that they used the past few years, I’m going to read to you right now, and hopefully I can have your thoughts on that. Here it is. It’s, “Faith is the commitment we have to the exploration of our beliefs. We acknowledge the fundamental necessity of the human confrontation with faith in all its aspects, religious, interpersonal, political, social and all the commitments required in life as a critical element in the pursuit of truth.” That’s it right there.
Greg: I wrote some of that down but my first reaction is they’re trying way too hard. They made something, I think, that is more simple to be almost so complicated, it’s hard to know what target you’re shooting at here based on what they just said. What was the last line? The critical aspect of…
Mike: Yeah. It was…
Greg: Search for truth? Search for…
Mike: As a critical element in the pursuit of truth.
Greg: Element in the pursuit of truth. Okay. If I were doing it, I would approach it a little differently. I think what they’re trying to do is to foster a kind of broad communication about one’s own faith and the ramifications of one’s own faith commitment on all of these other areas of life.
I think, “Well, that’s good.” If what they mean is that our worldview as Christians ought to speak to these areas, fine. I’m with you on that. But I think before you can speak to those areas, you have to have a crisper definition of a couple of things that pertain to faith.
Faith generally has one of two general uses. One is one’s act of faith. You say, “I have faith in Jesus,” or, “I have faith in the bible,” so there’s an act of faith. Then, we have our faith tradition. My faith is Christian or someone else’s faith might be Hindu or whatever. We’re using these words in a different way.
The biggest problem right now is this definition of the act of faith. We have a faith tradition. We have a tradition that claims certain things are true about the world. God and salvation and Jesus and all kind of things fall under that. Not only theological things, but historical things. For example, the resurrection happening and history and Jesus walking this Earth is history. Also moral things about certain things that are right and certain things are wrong. This is the content of our conviction. When we act as if the content of our convictions is actually true, those are acts of faith.
Greg: Okay? Our acting out our faith is the part where there’s the most confusion, I think. I notice that they put faith and reason as two different categories. I’m curious how they distinguish faith and reason.
Mike: Yeah. I think they try to integrate all of them. I’m not sure I’m trying to make a separation between them.
Greg: Sure. They may not be making a separation, but it’s not always clear, especially in this period of time. Now, if you’re going to a Catholic institution, you probably have some Jesuits that are involved in the training. Jesuits have characteristically been very vigorous in terms of their use of reason in the prosecution of their beliefs or their convictions about faith. There’s a good integration there, but nowadays it’s hard to know because things have been so relativized.
Mike: Oh, yeah. Maybe something that might be helpful is I’m like this “inclusivistic” kind of theology that you talk about sometimes on the show. That pretty much describes what is the ideas going on theologically in the Religious Studies department and stuff and the monastery.
Greg: Right, right. In this particular case, the inclusivism coming from the Roman Catholic Church is the idea that, yes, Jesus is necessary for salvation, but that doesn’t mean you have to believe in him. This to me is a radical departure from what the scripture teaches and what the apostles taught and what Jesus taught. Just for the record and you already know this because you heard me talk about this before but this is something that you’re going to be running into.
I’m trying to think about where you can make your best contribution here. It seems like the target is not really clear. It’s all over the map. I’d want to distinguish what do Christians… let me back up and put it this way: Instead of “what do Christians,” but what does the Bible refer to when it is asking about an act of faith? What is it referring to? The simplest answer there is that faith, biblically, is active trust but it is a trust that is earned.
This is why when you go, for example to… By the way, notice the contrast. We think about faith generally as a leap. Faith is what you believe. You don’t have reasons for that. You can’t know that, otherwise there’s no room for faith. You just take a leap and hope you’re right kind of thing, but the Bible knows nothing of this approach. When you think of the Gospel of John. You go to the very end of the Gospel of John chapter 20. John himself talks about why he wrote the most famous account of Jesus’ life that’s ever been written. He says, he makes reference to the signs Jesus performed. He said there were lots of them.
A sign is a miracle, an attesting miracle, more specifically. It’s an attesting miracle, that is, a miracle that attests to something else. A miracle is cool by itself, but it also attests to something else. Remember, Jesus, when the paralytic was lowered through the ceiling. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” People said, “How can you forgive sins?” Then, he says this, “In order that you may know that the son of man has the authority to forgive sins, I say to you arise, take up your pallet and go home.”
Here, his miracle of healing the paralytic was attesting to the truth of his ability to forgive sins. You can’t see the forgiveness of sins, but you can see the miracle. The miracle you can see attests to the spiritual realities that you cannot see, so the first proves the second. That’s what John is talking about here at the end of… Let me just finish the thought here and I’ll let you jump in. At the end of John, then, John chapter 20, verse 30 and 31, he says, “Many other attesting miracles like we just talked about, Jesus performed in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book but these,” the ones that he has included and there’s a lot of miracles in the Gospel of John, “These have been written, included in this account so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that believing, you may have life in his name.”
Now, here’s what I want to underscore for your conversations with your friends. John says the reason that he wrote his Gospel is to give evidences that demonstrate that Jesus is who he claimed to be so you can put an intelligent trust, confidence, faith if you will, in Jesus for your salvation. The biblical record is faith is not a leap, it’s actually a step of trust based on evidence. Okay?
Mike: Okay, yeah. I think that drives home right here, at the very end, it says, “The critical element in the pursuit of truth.” I guess that’s reversing the order. You have your faith and you go pursue truth rather than letting the truth inform your faith, I guess.
Greg: Yes. Truth comes first. Faith is second. Faith is not a way of knowing. See, the way they put it there, it sounds suspiciously like it is your faith that makes the religious claims true for you. That isn’t the biblical order. The claims either are true or false. We know they’re true because they’re good reason to believe they’re true. That’s the evidence that John is talking about there, attesting miracles. Now that we have good reason to believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be, now it’s up to us to act on that by putting our trust in him.
By the way, if the reason he wrote the Gospel of John is so that we would believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in believing have life, then if you do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, then you don’t have the life that believing in him gets you, which means their inclusivism is false.
There is no such thing as implicit faith in Christ that Jews – “well, they’re really believing in Jesus even though they don’t know about Jesus.” There is no such thing. Hindus don’t have implicit faith in Christ by worshiping idols. They are disobeying God by breaking the first commandment. The same with Buddhists and everybody else who’s pursuing their faith tradition as best as they know how. It may be as best as they know how but it’s false. They are deceived by the Deceiver. They are going to suffer as a result of being deceived.
This is something that I don’t think the Roman Church wants to stand up to or to step up to. That is, the reality of the deception of the world, that other religions are false ways of characterizing God, and therefore – they’re false religions, god, and salvation – and therefore, taken as a whole, they are false religions and if they’re false religions, then they are not going to get people to God.
This is what you’re up against there. I’ve actually written on this two-part piece called “No Other Name.” I think it’s available on our website because it was a Solid Ground that I wrote a number of years ago and…
Mike: Okay. I’ll check that out.
Greg: Yeah. The first part is meant to deal with religious pluralism, just a broad-based, all religions lead to god. That’s just false. It’s not because I’m bigoted. It’s just simple math. Not everybody can be right. They believe opposite things, but there is a variation of that called inclusivism. That’s what you mentioned earlier. That’s the idea that all religions themselves are true in themselves, but they’re good enough to get you to Jesus even if you don’t believe in Jesus. That’s the Roman Catholic view.
I just saw a thing that came out. I didn’t bring it in to talk about it today because I want to read the underlying document that this article is reporting on but the headline says that basically the Vatican is saying, or it’s a commission of the Roman Catholic Church that has some authority, saying there’s no need to evangelize Jews any more. They don’t need it. Now, I actually heard this over 20, 25 years ago in interfaith discussions with Roman Catholic priests on radio. I was stunned to hear it since I was raised a Catholic, but now they say more explicitly than ever. “You don’t need to witness to Jews.” “Why not?” “They have their own way of salvation.” “Really? What is that? I thought Jesus was the only way of salvation.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you don’t need to believe in Jesus in order to benefit from Jesus.” That’s their view. Okay.
Mike: That’s interesting because I don’t know. Just going in last year, I went in ignorant to these whole different systems of thought regarding salvation like that. I encountered this kind of “inclusivistic” attitude. I didn’t know what to make of it at first. Then, I didn’t know where they were getting what they were getting. Then, eventually I started listening to your show more. Then, you described it to the tee. I don’t know. I guess, I don’t know. The way I look at it, it’s like superficially, it’s a kind of philosophy that is coherent somewhat, but then if you just… but it’s not one that can co-exist with what is in scripture, I guess.
Greg: Yes. That’s the key. I think it’s entirely coherent. It makes all the sense in the world if you say you don’t have to believe in Jesus in order to be saved by Jesus. You can believe in something else and God honors that as faith in Jesus. That makes perfect sense. I just don’t think it’s true. The only way we know it’s true is if we go back to the text. The text teaches this nowhere, period. In fact, let me offer you a couple of thoughts quickly before I have to go to arm you just a little bit with some passages.
You will find some of these in the article if you read the article but in Acts chapter 4, Peter goes before the Sanhedrin. Now, this is the Jewish council, the Jewish tribunal. These are the Jewish leaders, the rabbis of the time, if you will. He says, “There is salvation in none other for there is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved.” He doesn’t say, “And by the way, you can just ignore what I said because you are really good Jews doing the best you can following Judaism so you’re already in. No need for you to whip me again for saying what I said because I’m acknowledging that you are really in. No worries.”
Why did the Jewish leadership scourge Peter? It’s because he was declaring Jesus, the resurrection and the necessity of faith in Jesus. Look at his opening sermon in Acts chapter 2. There is no way you can take Peter’s words in Acts 2 or 4 and make them conform to this “inclusivistics” Gospel. There is just no possible way.
It’s worse than that because you can also go further in the book of Acts to chapter 10. This is where Peter again is called in a vision by God to go speak to Cornelius who is a God-fearer. A God-fearer is a kind of guy who’s doing the best he can under the circumstances to follow God by the light he’s been given. He’s a Gentile. He’s not in the assembly of the Jews, but he’s doing the best that he can, right?
An angel appears to Cornelius and then an angel appears to Peter and brokers a meeting. That’s what it’s about. Here in verse 34 of Acts 10, when Peter finally goes to see Cornelius, he’s a little reluctant because that guy, after all, is a Gentile.
By the way, let me just… Here’s the way the text describes Cornelius. Chapter 10, verse one: “Now, there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Cohort.” A devout man, one who has feared god with all his household, has given many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to god continually. Then, in virtue of all this godliness, has a vision from an angel. Wow! He’s in. Right? He’s the guy. He’s doing everything that the “inclusivists” say.
Then, Peter goes and visits him and says, verse 34, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality but in every nation, the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him.”
Wow! End of issue. Peter gets up and he leaves. No, he doesn’t. What he just gave was the “inclusivist” Gospel of the Roman Catholic Church, but Peter knew that Cornelius still wasn’t saved. He needed the Gospel, which he then gives him and which he preaches in a powerful way there. It’s interesting that what he says to Cornelius in verse 42 is that this is a message that he, Jesus, ordered us to preach to the people. How is it if Jesus orders them to preach to the people that some church official here in the Roman Catholic Church is ordering their people not to preach it?
I encourage you to read Acts chapter 10 because I think this passage, all by itself, proves that the “inclusivist” message is just flat out false because if it were true, Cornelius would already be saved. Go ahead.
Mike: Okay. Can I just ask one final question on your way out?
Mike: This regarding that. Could they possibly respond to that saying, “Okay, these commands are for just these apostles or these 12, but not for the church as a whole,” I guess? I don’t know.
Greg: First of all, this wasn’t in the case of Peter and his Acts 4 circumstance. He was preaching the full message to the people who needed it. He was preaching to Jewish people who were following their own ways and needed to be corrected.
Now, if you want to focus in on verse 42 of chapter 10, “and he ordered us to preach to the people solemnly to testify that this is the one who has been appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.” That was just for the 12 apostles, then what is the point of any church moving on after that with any message about Jesus and the Gospel. That pretty much undermines the whole enterprise if they’re going to say this is just for them.
Notice what Paul said when he’s about ready to move on in his martyrdom. This is in Timothy chapter 1. Now, this is Paul about to die. He says, “Retain the standard of sound words which you heard from me in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus, guard through the holy spirit who dwells in us that treasure which has been attrusted to you.”
What treasure of that? What he’s just been talking about. “I am not ashamed of the testimony of our lord.” He is entrusting Timothy with the Gospel that is to be preached. This is passed down generation after generation. This isn’t a command just for Peter. This is a command to bring salvation to the world – go into all the world and make disciples. That entails preaching his Gospel. If you get that copy of that article that I have, all kind of passages in there that will help in this regard but this doctrine of inclusivism. Nobody even hinted at such a thing for the first 1,000 years of Christianity. Why are we introducing something that is contrary to the direct commands of Jesus and the direct commands of the apostles, as if the holy…
Mike: It’s a nice thought, I guess. No, no.
Greg: Yeah. It’s a nice thought. It’s just a false thought. It’s a deception. There are a whole lot of people giving false hope.
Okay, that’s great, Mike. That’s very good to talk with you. I’m glad we had this extended conversation, okay? I’d be interested to hear…
Mike: I think so, yeah.
Greg: I’d be interested to hear if you…
Mike: Yeah. I’ll get back to you on this.
Greg: Yeah. Get back with me and let me know how it goes.
All right. Got to run to break. We’ll have your final callers when I return to Stand to Reason.
Greg: Greg Koukl back at you here at Stand to Reason , giving you a piece of my mind as I do every week on our 2-hour show. You can call in 855-243-9975. Quick note. Coming up August 6th through 13th, our Alaska cruise. I love these things. We have such a fabulous time. This will be our third time going to Alaska on a conference cruise. We’ll be departing from Seattle, be heading to Juno, Alaska. Also, Sitka, also Ketchikan. We’ll spend some time in Victoria B.C. We’ll be in Canada.
Our training will be provided by J. Warner Wallace from Cold Case Christianity. John Stone Street from the Chuck Colson Center for Christian World View and yours truly, representing Stand to Reason. We’re all going to be there, not just for the training but for the whole cruise, which means we’re available in off time to hang out to chat, to enjoy each other’s company, have breakfast together, have meals together, plenty of teaching, plenty of fellowship, plenty of fabulous scenery, and plenty of time to enjoy it. Get the information at Inspiration Cruises, 800-247-1899 or you can just go to inspirationcrusises.com/str.
All right. Let’s go to Jonathan in Camarillo, California, which is just down the hill from my home. Hello, John.
John: I know.
John: Hi. Good to talk to you. I don’t know if you remember us, but you’re going to come speak to us at our church on February the seventh.
Greg: I am going to be there. Yes. I’m looking forward to that and, actually, my girl’s school, Beacon Hill Classical Academy, is in Camarillo. I’m well acquainted with your community. Looking forward to joining you guys in early February.
John: Yeah. We’re really excited about it.
Greg: Good. Thank you.
John: Listen. The reason I’m calling is my wife and I have a daughter who is living the homosexual lifestyle, and she’s been that way in that lifestyle for probably 8 years, I think. She’s told us that she plans to get married. Your earlier conversation triggered something you said, I missed the beginning of your radio show and I wanted to hear what your thoughts were about us attending. She’s not a professing believer.
Greg: What’s my view on this?
John: Yeah. I thought you might have… We’ve been struggling with this, seeking… We don’t want to burn a bridge but we also don’t… Yeah.
Greg: No. I understand. There are going to be more difficult decisions like this that Christians are going to have to make given the changing ethics in the culture. Here’s the approach that we’ve taken to this, and I’m also benefiting from Alan Shlemon’s approach or his perspective, his advice. Alan is our resident expert on this issue. His brother-in-law is gay and he has other members of his family that are homosexual. He knows this not just academically but first-hand, okay?
Greg: Let me ask you this question. It’ll help put it in perspective for you. Just generally speaking, and I know you’re a parent here and this changes the dynamic a little bit, but just generally speaking, what are the reasons that any person goes to a wedding?
John: To celebrate a relationship that’s going to last their life.
Greg: Yes. I agree. It’s to celebrate the union, the relationship that is being in a certain sense solemnized at the wedding. Now, is this the kind of relationship that you can actually celebrate?
Greg: No. Yeah. It was a rhetorical question. I’m pretty clear on the answer but I’m just laying it out there. If it is not the kind of relationship that you can celebrate, then how do we justify going to an event that celebrates the relationship?
John: Uh-huh. Yeah.
Greg: That’s the basic calculus here for me.
Now, when it comes to the day-to-day living and everything after the event is over with that, maybe some other considerations apply, but I think that is a good guideline regarding a wedding service. It’s a hard one to employ, especially if you are a parent because your absence is going to be conspicuous.
Now, I’ll tell you what Alan said, Alan Shlemon. He said when he faced this issue once with someone he was close to, he thought, “Well, I could make a statement and maybe burn a bridge, or I could just go to the ceremony, in my heart not celebrating it, but being there to establish and build the relationship and hopefully then, that will be a pretext for ongoing interaction that could have a salutary effect spiritually, whatever, in the future.”
He went. What he said – and I think he shared this on the air – he said he wished he hadn’t gone. As he looks back on it now, really nothing good came out of that. He wasn’t the parent of the bride but he said nothing good came out of it. He felt a little bit like he compromised his own conscience, so in the future, he wasn’t going to do this.
I do think it is more difficult for you because you and your wife are the parents of the bride. I will say this, and this is also someone very, very close. I can’t speak with names here right now for the sake of privacy, but they’re very, very close to our organization, a very mature Christian and a Christian worker, in fact, whose daughter has largely, for all intents and purposes, left the faith. She’s 20 or 21 now. She’s an adult, but for the last few years has been really rebelling and has taken up with a non-Christian guy and has moved in with him and is planning a wedding for May.
She is a professing Christian. He is not a Christian. This is a wrong situation. Just as wrong as two women being married, two lesbians being joined in a union. They are not going to the wedding. He is the one that’s supposed to walk his daughter down the aisle. She’s not lesbian. She’s a heterosexual, but it is still a union that is not honorable. It’s also not wise. Even if this young man did know the lord, it would be problematic for other reasons, but bare minimum, they cannot participate in the celebration.
Once they’re married, that changes things, okay? One, the couple’s married, then they start having kids, you want to strengthen that relationship even if it didn’t start out right. When it comes to a lesbian circumstance, again, this is a little bit more touch and go because that could never be made right, but distancing yourself after a ceremony like that may just appear to be mean spirited. Since she is your daughter, including the couple in your family life would probably be appropriate, but you can see the difference. The reason…
John: Okay. Let me throw a curve ball, though, because, true, my wife wants to go to the wedding. I feel, I expressed my discomfort of this. She feels discomfort as well but she still wants to go. How would you suggest we ferret through this? It’s a whole other can of worms.
Greg: I know. It is. You’re not of the same mind on this. I can understand why. I think on balance men and women approach these kind of questions a little differently. I’m not trying to make a gross generalization here but I think I can see how… I can understand how she would want to do that. That would have a certain kind of additional, more forceful appeal than for you.
Now, the question is… Well, let me ask you this. I’m not presuming anything here at all, but who’s decision in your family, how does a difference of opinion get resolved? With a big issue like this, do you break the tie or does she break the tie or how does that work? Again, no judgment here. I’m just curious about...
John: I can’t say that we have a consistent procedure for tie-breaking. What was likely to happen is she would go and I would stay behind.
Greg: Boy, that’s hard.
John: I know.
Greg: That certainly is an option. It depends on the strength of your own conviction about this issue. You may want to say, “You know, honey. Before the lord, I feel I would be doing something wrong if I did this. You seem to have a different conviction about this and I respect that. I’m not going to order you to do differently but because that itself, if you’re… It may not work out well.”
If she does have a view, if your wife has a view. “Honey, I have a different view than you have, but I will respect your leadership and willingly abide by what you think is best since you’re the head of the household.” Well, under those circumstances with that attitude, then you would decide what’s best and you both abide by it. I’m not trying to trump the spirituality here. The reality of relationships is different than the ideal. I understand that. If that’s not her attitude then trying to force the issue is going to create more difficulty in an already awkward, difficult circumstance.
Then, you have to decide if she’s committed to going, regardless of what you say. Then you have to decide whether I go along with her or whether I stay. That’s all going to be based on your conscience on the issue, but if you decide to stay, you have to be very careful that you don’t in any sense, lord it over in a superiority way over your wife because that’s not going to be good for your relationship.
John: Yeah, I hear you.
Related to this, have you heard Rosaria Butterfield speak? We’ve learned about her and have watched her.
Greg: No. I don’t know who that is.
John: You don’t know who that is? Okay. She’s an ex-lesbian. She was a tenured professor at Syracuse in the English department. She’s just an incredibly articulate born again Christians who has left the lifestyle. She was a major movement lesbian back east, so… Look her up. She’s great to listen to.
Greg: Oh, okay. Good. What’s her advice on this issue?
John: She categorized it as a sin like other sins. I don’t know what she’d say about it. I’ve not heard her speak on…
Greg: I was thinking more on the issue of the wedding, of attending.
John: I don’t know that. She hasn’t heard to speak to that, right but…
Greg: Uh-huh. Okay. Thanks for the recommendation. What’s her name again?
John: Rosaria Butterfield.
Greg: Rosaria Butterfield.
John: Lot of YouTube on her. She’s an incredibly articulate spokesperson now for Christ. Anyway.
Greg: We got 60 seconds but I hope that what I offered here helps you in your own difficult decision. I think there’s a lot of things going here. I think the principle that a wedding is a celebration, that is going to be helpful for most people under most circumstances to judge the propriety of attending if you’re a Christian, but I think your circumstance is a bit of a hybrid. If you were of one mind with your wife on this one, I think it would be easier. Since you’re not of one mind, you have a little bit of consideration, a different consideration, and you’ve got to choose who you’re going to die on.
John: Yeah. Okay.
Greg: You can only do before the Lord, I think.
John: All right. thanks, Greg. Look forward to seeing you.
Greg: Jonathan, yes. Please let me know. Remember, “I’m the guy that called about this thing” because my memory about calls and everything is not so good. When I see you, just remind me and help me out there, all right?
John: Okay, great.
Greg: Okay. Appreciate it, Jonathan. See you in a few weeks.
John: Bye. Bless you.
Greg: All right. Thank you. That’s a good call.
That’s it for this show, my friends. It’s great having you on board and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I hope that it was helpful to you. I’m Greg Koukl for Stand to Reason. Give ’em Heaven this week. Bye for now.